SINGAPORE — Venus Williams needed three match points and more than three hours to defeat Jelena Ostapenko 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5 at the WTA Finals on Tuesday.
The match, lasting 3 hours, 13 minutes, featured 20 service breaks with neither player finding any confidence on their service games.
Williams dropped her serve nine times, while the French Open champion Ostapenko conceded serve 11 times.
“I don’t know if there was any luck for me tonight, I just had to work for every point,” the 37-year-old Williams said. “It’s not easy to lose the first match, and both of us were in the same situation.”
The fifth-seeded Williams is now 1-1 in round-robin play, while the seventh-seeded Ostapenko – who is making her WTA Finals debut – fell to 0-2.
Williams’s first match point came on Ostapenko’s serve in the 10th game of the second set, but she squandered the opportunity by netting a forehand.
The 20-year-old Ostapenko kept the pressure on to force a tiebreaker and levelled the match. Prior to this match, Williams had only lost two tiebreakers in 12 played this season.
But Williams, the runner-up at the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, then started taking Ostapenko’s second serve from well within the baseline. She broke her Latvian opponent in the 11th game by forcing her into a backhand error.
Williams, the only player in the field to have won the WTA Finals – back in 2008 – sealed victory with a backhand crosscourt winner.